California, and my Aunt Peaches … I can’t think of one without thinking of the other.
When I was a kid (before California came to be known as “La-La” land,) That’s where I wanted to be. I loved California for two reasons: Disneyland, and my Aunt Peaches.
Living as a young child in Topeka, I didn’t get to see her as much as I did my mother, Aunt Pie and my Grandmother. If I was lucky, I might get to spend a couple of weeks during the summer with her. But every time I did, I had some FUN!
Peaches used to work for the Mouse … THE mouse, with a capital “Mickey.” So, whenever I heard that I might get a chance to visit Aunt Peaches, I just KNEW some things were guaranteed to happen:
1. I was going to go to Disneyland (which, as a child is like the Holy Grail of summer vacation must-do’s.)
2. I was going to go to Knott’s Berry Farm (Even though she worked for the Mouse, she lived close to Knott’s Berry Farm, so I was able to pressure her to take me every time we drove by the place … within a two-week span, she was bound to give in at least once.)
3. I was going to eat like a king. Her longtime beau (who I now consider my Uncle, Malcom) is a master chef. Every time I visited, he cooked a fantastic feast. On the days he didn’t cook, it was almost certain that we would be eating my favorite fast food, or eating outside at some fancy-shmancy restaurant (because that’s what Californian’s do, you know.)
4. I was going to get to go to the beach. What kid doesn’t love the beach?!?! When I got tired of Mickey, I could always go to the beach and play in the water.
5. I was going to get a Mickey Mouse wristwatch. That was my Aunt Peaches’ signature gift. Almost everyone in our family had a small collection of Disney watches that my Aunt Peaches had given them. When I returned to lil’ ol’ Topeka, I would brag to my friends about how “sophisticated” I was because I had a “real” Disney watch FROM DISNEYLAND. (I thought I was the SHIZNIT!)
Most of the above things I remembered were just centered around me being the selfish, childish, greedy little kid I was back then. But today when I think of my Aunt Peaches, I remember a lot more than just all the fun I had.
I remember how she would always find time during the summer to ask my mother if I could come visit. Even when she had to work (and believe me, that Mouse could crack a whip!) she always found time to spend with me and keep me occupied.
I remember being a teenager, and she would let me dig through her vinyl albums. I was always secretly hoping she would give me her copy of LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali.”
I remember once, after another one of my outbreaks of youthful rebellion against my mother, she volunteered to raise me … for good. She already had two kids of her own, but was willing to alter her life and the life of her family to take on an extra mouth (and attitude,) just to help get me on the right track. I’m not sure her daughters were too crazy about the idea. (They loved me, but me living with them might have meant less of the “good life” to spread around!) Still, she was going to do it, and that meant a lot to me.
I remember being a young Marine, stationed at Camp Pendleton (about an hour away from her house.) I used to try to impress girls by telling them that I could get into Disneyland for free (thanks to my Aunt Peaches.) I remember going to visit Peaches weekend after weekend with a different girl (whoever was foolish enough to date me at the time.) Peaches would always put on a happy face and give us free tickets to the California attractions. And, although I’m sure she didn’t approve of the, um, “freespirited” way I was back then, she would never let it slip that I was JUST visiting last week with a different girl … Peaches respected the game! (For the record, this was BEFORE I met Muna.)
But, I also remember once, when I foolishly thought I was ready to get serious and settle down (again, before I married Muna,) Peaches was the first to tell me the truth: “She’s not the one for you, Darrick,” I remember her telling me. I’m glad I listened to her … Somehow, I view Peaches as the person who helped keep the path clear so I could marry my Muna.
I never thanked her for that, so I guess I should … and what better time than now, on the day my Aunt Peaches celebrates her birthday?
Peaches and the Mouse have since parted ways. She still lives near “Hollywierd,” but now she and Malcom spend most of their time working and caring for her two beautiful granddaughters. I think that because she is the middle sister (with my mother being the oldest, and my Aunt Pie being the youngest,) she thinks we don’t remember her way out in California (while the rest of the family is still in Topeka.) Not true … not true at all.
I’m stuck in the ‘stan now, so my options for birthday gifts for her are limited. But at a minimum, I can dedicate this little megabyte of love on the internet for the world to see, and let her know:
I remember, Peaches. I remember.